A recent survey by PerfectoMobile.com involving over 900 users indicated 44% of mobile app defects are found by the end-user impacting the app’s functionality or even rendering it inoperable. This pinpoints the obvious need for more testing across a broader range of mobile devices. This is not easy even for big companies. So, the focus here is what you can do to entice a robust beta test team without having to hire them.
1. Internship or Apprenticeship Program – Starting on the high end, this requires some work on your part, but it can offset substantial overhead when it comes to payroll. I’m a big fan of both types of programs as they stand as solid alternatives to the traditional college and university systems in countries where tuition can be exorbitant. Virtual internships (telecommuting environment) are also becoming popular.
Per Wikipedia – An internship is a method of on-the-job training for white-collar and professional careers. Internships for professional careers are similar in some ways to apprenticeships for trade and vocational jobs, but the lack of standardization and oversight leaves the term open to broad interpretation. Interns may be college or university students, high school students, or post-graduate adults. These positions may be paid or unpaid and are usually temporary.
Both approaches require setting up a training program, providing oversight and feedback to the student or apprentice. You can also aim for an accredited program by working with specific colleges and universities which can pave the way for finding interns every year. Accredited programs involve developing a formal work-study program, basically an outline of what the intern will do and what the value of doing that is.
This is experience that they can put on their resume which you can back up with a formal letter of appreciation. If your growth permits, this also provides you with candidates already familiar with your company who may fit in better.
Considerable thought should go into this. Interns could even be tasked with managing other parts of your beta testing, thus some practical managerial experience complementing the technical components of their work.
2. Localization plus Revenue Share – Another high end component is to look for potential partners who are in markets where platforms and devices outside your normal prevue prevail. Just as an example, if you were looking to have your app available for Blackberries, you would likely want to look at South Africa – the one country where Blackberry still flourishes.
You will need to negotiate with any prospective partner the scope of work, share of revenue and all the things that go with it. One approach is that in exchange for beta testing and quality assurance of your app for a platform and/or range of devices, that they receive a distribution license of their own good for their local market, a
However, this approach provides an opportunity to have specialists in specific platforms and devices do the testing which should result in lower defects.
In exchange for their beta testing and quality assurance of your app for a platform or range of devices, you can offer them a limited distribution license of their own. This would probably include authorization to localize your app into their local languages. It would also be appropriate to require their localized apps to indicate they are the result of a joint effort between your company and theirs. There are different ways this can be handled.
3. Advocates – Easier to arrange, this involves working with specific people who want to be associated with your company for reasons other than employment. They might be friends, they might love your app, they have a high profile in the niche serviced by your app, etc. These might be players, they might be “guild masters”, they might have blogs or web sites of their own. These are good people to have on your side and it helps them look good by having you on their side. In exchange for their beta testing efforts, you can reward them with free apps, giving them tickets to “exclusive public previews”, a guest article on their blog, interviews, and inside news of what’s coming next. These can be your most loyal, die-hard supporters – keep them happy and they will go out of their way to make you happy and not just on the beta testing.
4. Company beta-testing – Another approach for utility-based apps is to try to work with companies that would benefit from your app. This can be a bit harder to swing, but if your app stands to be particularly useful to certain professionals – it is something they need and want to make their job easier, they will likely be willing to invest some time to help you iron out the wrinkles. It will likely require networking with their programming or technical managers, CTO, or perhaps CIO. You can sweeten the pot by assuring them that they will receive a nice placement in your credits.
5. Bounty Hunters –This will require you to actively maintain a web page listing all of the feedback as it comes in. A typical forum like phpBB would likely be sufficient. The basic idea here is to award a nominal cash prize via Paypal to the first person who finds and reports a bug – perhaps $3-5 each. Alternatively, if your app involves in-app currency or prizes, those can be used as substitutes. This probably works best with games.
6. End Users – Most companies tend to rely upon end users for almost all of their beta testing, so this isn’t included in the “point count” or why this post isn’t “Six Ways to Build your Beta Team.” End users can be really good for getting a volume of beta testers, but many will be dead-weight, simply wanting free access to your app without providing you feedback. Still, that can be good if they ultimately really like their game as it paves the way for word of mouth referrals.
Crowdsourcing via the various crowdsourcing boards, or simply outsourcing your QA on a device or platform basis are also good altneratives. They are not “new” either.
You are not limited to one method, and really given the follow-on benefits of each, it can be worth aiming to include all of these methods for a true, high quality public release.
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